Retail store associates are social by nature. In my 10+ years as a store manager, I found that being a “people person” was always an asset. It allowed me to make the most of customer interactions, and it was a huge factor in my success leading in-store teams.  

Personality absolutely helps when it comes to engaging with customers, yet even the most outgoing store employees benefit from hands-on training and coaching. To truly excel in retail, store associates need a complete toolkit of skills and behaviors to deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

That’s where retail role playing comes in.  

Consider a newly hired sales associate. It’s their first week on the job, and they’re excited to hit the sales floor. Smiling from ear to ear, they greet their first customer with, “Hi, how can I help you today?”  

The customer responds, “Thanks, I’m just looking,” as customers often do.  

The associate backs off and replies, “OK, let me know if you need anything.” 

The result? Your freshly minted team member is likely to feel dejected. After multiple interactions like this one, their confidence might take a hit. 

Retail role playing can help avert this common phenomenon and put your eager new store associates on track to excel. A simple role play on “re-engaging with customers” or “using tasks to connect with customers” can transform those “Thanks, I’m just looking” moments into service opportunities – boosting the quality of customer experiences as well as team morale 

Why role play when you have an LMS? 

In the age of online learning and BYOD, good old-fashioned “role playing” may sound anachronistic; however, it’s a staple for any retail training program for good reason: 

  1. Practice makes perfect. Role plays offer the opportunity to “experience” real-world scenarios in a risk-free environment. Repetition is key, especially when it comes to more complex selling skills, such as balancing multiple customers, identifying openings, and solution selling. 
  2. It’s an engaging way to learn. Training manuals and video training serve a purpose, ensuring consistency in the fundamentals. But role-playing offers the chance to “test drive” different behaviors on your feet. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction to ensure you’re ready to try your hand with real, live customers. 
  3. It works! Ask any seasoned retail leader, and they’ll confirm: role playing is a key tactic to create better customer experiences, generating higher conversion rates and larger transaction sizes 

How can I get started? 

There is no “right” way to role play. Retail role playing is as diverse as retail itself. The best approach is to dive right in with a focus on critical skills and behaviors unique to your business. Keep in mind that the goal is to reinforce concepts and build confidence. You’ll want to start slowly and build up to more advanced behaviors. 

What’s in it for me as a store leader? 

Role playing provides an ideal opportunity for coaching and feedback. Store leaders can identify skill and knowledge gaps among their team members in a low-risk environment. Store employees can learn from one another and level up their product knowledge as well as their selling acumen. With deeper insights into individuals’ strengths and growth areas, store managers can make more informed staffing assignments, ensuring they have the right people on the floor in peak hours.  

Most importantly, role playing helps store associates develop a more customer-centric store culture. When team members learn to ask high-quality questions, uncover customers’ needs, and develop solutions, simple greetings can spark exceptional in-store experiences.